Frank Field MP
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To smoke or not to smoke

Smoking tobacco can kill. There is no question about that. What the House of Commons has to decide today is what further steps it will take to prevent people from smoking which will kill some of them.

Up until this point the Government's campaign has been to prevent people from smoking in public places. I have supported these moves, with some reservation.

Most people do not now smoke, and I guess the majority of us now do not like being in public places where other people are smoking. The ban was well judged and I cannot recall a single prosecution for breaking the new prohibition.

This restriction has meant, however, a severe curtailment of the freedom of smokers. They have to smoke outside the doorways of cinemas, pubs and places of work.

The House of Commons today has the opportunity to ratchet up the restrictions against smoking. Today we could cross a threshold.

From early days minors have not been allowed legally to purchase tobacco. But most of the Government's anti-smoking campaign has been to prevent people smoking in places where it can either damage the workforce - bar workers in pubs or colleagues in shops and offices - or where it is unpleasant for the general public.

MPs are now being asked to ban any signs that tobacco is sold at newsagents and other outlets. Retailers will be able to stock supplies of tobacco but will not be able to have any of these stocks on display.

I shall be voting against these further restrictions on the grounds that the ban will prove pretty futile. I cannot believe that selling tobacco from under the counter is going to prevent anyone from acquiring a smoking habit. Indeed it might increase its attractiveness.

My vote against these proposals is based on different grounds. I think we have reached the end of the line in a free society in trying to curtail the smoking habits of our fellow citizens of which we do not approve.

I am not against using sanctions, but I do believe they should be proportionate and above all they should be effective. I do not believe these rules will lessen the numbers of people smoking.

I also believe they are now disproportionate in respect to the various mortality values. When one looks at death rates we see a growing number of people dying from heart disease and its consequences, and yet we take very little action to prevent people stuffing themselves with poly-saturated fats or trying to encourage people not to join the mega overweight brigade.

How do we as legislators justify yet more penal actions against smokers, while we are as yet unwilling to take the first simpler action to prevent people dying from excessive obesity?

There is scope for governments to try and modify our behaviour but the limit to this approach has, I believe, now been reached in respect of smoking. Our attention should now be focussed on the other big killer in Western Societies that is linked to overeating.
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Mr Field,I agree entirely with you reasoning. However, I am appaulled to discover an amendment to this bill passed it's third reading on Monday 12th October to accept the proposal of a ban on cigarette vending machines. This has been passed without consultation and without supporting evidence. Furthermore,this has been passed without an MP's vote and is now in the hands of the Lords. This hardly seems democratic and I would suggest this is an amendment designed to feed the vanity of its primary backer Ian McCartney MP (who will not stand at the next election)as in his own words he truly believes he is making 'history'. Clearly the man is sadly misinformed.This amendment will directly affect my business and I would like to know if the government will assist me finacially with the inevitable redundancies I will be forced to make within my business.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Our attention should now be focussed on the other big killer in Western Societies that is linked to overeatingOh dear me Mr Field. Don't you understand that we are all fed up with the State telling us what to do? The State should advise of the dangers of over eating and then shut up.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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